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Member News: C.C. Eship / NACCE Journal Winter/Spring 2010

Growing Our Own Is Key to Success of Rural Entrepreneurship Center

Tuesday, January 19, 2010   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Montoya
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By Cristobal Valdez
Provost, Detroit Lakes Campus

Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes, MN

This is the finalarticle in a series of four chronicling the development of the M State, Business and Entrepreneurial Services (BES) in the rural community of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This article discusses examples of using many and multiple resources including, but not limited to, business counseling, business incubation, building block curriculum, and credit free instruction. In this journey we have come to understand one of the hallmark values of entrepreneurship, the opportunity to "grow our own” ventures, services and systems.

Growing Our Own: Counseling and Coaching

Early in the history of the BES we sought out partnerships with the local Small Business Development Center. Unfortunately for us, local meant an office 50 miles away. Our clients and customers have not found this to be very user friendly so we had to develop other strategies. Recently, we developed a Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) branch housed on our campus inside the BES. This has been a surprisingly beneficial relationship.

Somewhat serendipitously, we discovered we were the experts. BES Director Beth Pridday signed on as a SCORE counselor and heads up the local branch. To date, we have five counselors and, already, we are actively recruiting additional counselors due to a strong demand for services.

From July to November, we had 65 individuals come into the BES to discuss business ideas ranging from aqua farming to training search dogs to starting a helicopter flight school to a skateboard repair shop to a green energy consulting business to a TV media coaching business. Literally, people are coming out of the woodwork.

Growing Our Own: Incubation

In an effort to build comprehensive services, we intended to build a business incubator on campus. At the 7th Annual NACCE Conference in Chicago, Beth was able to gain a wealth of information and pointers from fellow NACCE members regarding incubators and strategies for a successful incubation venture. On November 13, 2009, the incubator opened with seven of the nine spaces already leased. We are in negotiation with multiple entrepreneurs to fill the remaining offices and plan to construct three to six additional spaces in the summer.

Again, we have extended our reach to the greater region. We are partnering with a small mixed-use incubator on the White Earth Reservation 30 miles north and with a retail incubator and commercial kitchen incubator 50 miles east to increase coordination and regionalize incubation in rural Minnesota.

Growing Our Own: Outreach, Outreach, Outreach

We have worked diligently to promote entrepreneurship, erase territories and eliminate boundaries. We have journeyed to multiple rural communities to seek out entrepreneurs and provide services. This strategy has allowed us to offer noncredit courses in four different communities and develop networks for incubation throughout the region. In April 2010 we will conduct our inaugural high school business plan competition. Several board members and staff persons traveled to area high schools to pitch the competition to superintendents, students, and teachers.

Growing Our Own: Right People in the Right Places

Beth, our director, has become quite a road warrior, serving on multiple boards and introducing the BES to economic developers and community leaders throughout the area. Above all other components and strategies we have employed, I have found this principle to be paramount; employ an entrepreneur. Beth has seen so many opportunities that we had not previously, she is extremely connected in the community and the business world, and she has the energy and content expertise to bring the BES to a level none of us previously expected.

Finally, it has been a pleasure to recount our steps, and, at times missteps, and appreciate the progress and successes realized. I sincerely hope that some of the journey we have trodden will assist you in developing your enterprise, services, or curriculum. I would highly recommend chronicling your journey; the reflection will be beneficial and the documentation will help with public relations, marketing, and grant making.

For more information about Business & Entrepreneurial Services of M State, contact Cristobal "Cris” Valdez at (218) 846-3778 or via email at cris.valdez@minnesota.edu.


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